Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Coffee Sheriff Pleads Guilty; He Pleads to One Charge Related to Using a State-Owned Truck, and He Loses His Job

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Coffee Sheriff Pleads Guilty; He Pleads to One Charge Related to Using a State-Owned Truck, and He Loses His Job

Article excerpt

Byline: TERESA STEPZINSKI

Coffee County Sheriff Rob Smith has pleaded guilty to one count of malpractice and malfeasance in office and agreed to resign effective April 15 rather than be jailed for a year.

Smith admitted Wednesday in a plea bargain that there was sufficient evidence to convict him. He then pleaded guilty to using a state-owned truck for his own gain, as charged in an eight-count indictment handed up March 20 by a county grand jury.

Superior Court Judge Michael Boggs imposed a year's suspended sentence on Smith, whose conviction mandates that he "immediately relinquish the duties and power of sheriff of Coffee County."

Smith was a law enforcement officer for 18 years, including the past five years as county sheriff.

He couldn't be reached for comment Friday. His attorney, Jerome Adams, declined to comment.

Malpractice and malfeasance in office is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail, according to Georgia law.

The judge ordered Smith to immediately surrender his state certification as a law enforcement officer, effectively preventing him from working in a police capacity in the state.

District Attorney Rick Currie said he made the plea bargain because it served justice.

"He [Smith] has relinquished office . . . . We took his livelihood. His career in law enforcement is over," Currie said.

The 1985 truck Smith admitted to using was surplus federal property provided through the Georgia Emergency Management Agency for law enforcement purposes. Once such equipment is no longer used for its intended purpose, it must be returned to the agency that provided it.

On May 13, 2004, Smith placed a flatbed body on the truck, replaced the government tag with a personal license plate and allowed a civilian to operate it for him, according to the indictment.

The indictment charged Smith with these eight offenses:

-- Three counts of using county jail inmates for personal gain. The indictment said on March 28, 2004, three inmates built political signs for Smith's re-election campaign. …

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